Being the detective when dealing with cat litter box issues

Jackson Galaxy likes detective work. I guess a lot of his time is spent being a detective in assessing what’s gone wrong in a home where the cat is deemed to be behaving badly and one aspect of bad behaviour is inappropriate elimination as it is euphemistically called. This is peeing and/or defecating outside of the litter box.

Barry the cat, Jackson's close companion
You can see the gentle and strong bond between Jackson and Barry one of this cats in this photo. Image: Jackson Galaxy.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I’ll presume that in almost all homes, the cat companion has, at one time, used the litter box regularly without problems. That’s the status quo. Then something changes. He or she starts peeing outside of the litter box causing consternation. This is when the detective in cat owners comes to the fore.

You can go back in time to the moment when the peeing outside the box first began and ask the question: “When did this problem start and what changed in my home at that precise time?”

You can normally nail it down to one or two things. There might be a change with the litter box itself or its position. Has there been any change to any aspect of the litter box from the type of litter (substrate) to its location. If you see a change you can revert back to the way it was. Below is an infographic on different substrates which may be of interest.

Cat litter substrate compared
Cat litter substrate compared

Then you can play detective on a wider scale by asking whether there had been any changes in the routine of the caregiver or in the household routines which might have upset a cat emotionally.

It’s possible that the owner has a new job with different routines and perhaps with less time at home. Have the children gone back to school? Have you broken up with your partner? It is these kinds of changes which can lead to an owner spending either more or less time at home and can lead to a noticeable change in the daily rhythms and routines which are picked up by a cat. Cats like the reassurance of routines which can work to advantage and disadvantage by the way. Break them and you can make a cat anxious leading to inappropriate elimination sometimes.

It might be a two-stage process with anxiety leading to stress leading to cystitis leading to peeing on the carpet. Click for a page on 4 steps an owner cat take to prevent cystitis.

Anything new to break up the routine such as new occupants of a home, a new animal either a cat or dog and a new child in the home can bring a big shift in the home dynamic.

It might not be possible to revert back to the status quo in which case you won’t be able to cure the problem relatively easily. When I mean is there may be a new partner, which might have a dramatic impact on a resident domestic cat’s emotional wellbeing both negative but potentially positive. There will be no easy solution to that. It’ll take time for the cat to adjust to the changed circumstances.

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